Oklahoma State improved to 5-1 on the season, but didn't exactly look like world beaters escaping Kansas with a win. Since the first game of the season the Cowboys have shown glaring weakness, but the easy schedule allowed the Pokes to keep racking up W's.
Things are about to change, and change in a hurry. Oklahoma State travels to TCU as the Pokes enter a brutal stretch of the schedule. To start the season TCU looked to be an expected win, but after knocking off Oklahoma, and a near upset of Baylor, they are no longer to be taken for granted. If the Cowboys expect to win, they will need to show significant improvement.
Coach Gundy is aware of the issues his team faces, and addressed them with the media during his weekly press conference.
This Line Is Offensive
The offensive line has been less than average to this point on the season, and it's hard to get anything going on that side of the ball if the Cowboys are getting owned up front. It was one of the first issues brought up.
"Just trying to get a little bit better each week." Gundy started. "We just got to keep pushing forward, and try to play better than we did last week"
This is basically Gundy saying, it is what it is. The position lacks depth and experience, and until they build that, it won't be pretty.
One thing Kansas did well was bring the blitz. Gundy was asked if he thinks teams will pressure more since the offensive line is struggling.
"The blitz isn't a real concern for us, just blocking base front is a concern for us.", Mike said. "When you're not picking up just base looks then you have issues, because your quarterback doesn't know where to go with the ball, and he holds the ball and then gets sacked."
Daxx "Air" Garman
Earlier today we asked whether or not Garman had done enough supplant a healthy J.W. Walsh as the starter. Gundy spoke a little bit about how Daxx is progressing.
"He's played really well, except he needs to understand depth of safeties in certain times when he's throwing the ball. Daxx's ability to improve each week will be based on us running the football."
The last two weeks special teams has gone from a weakness of the team, to a strength. Coach spoke a little bit about that side of the ball.
"We were really poor in kick and punt coverage", Gundy said. "They've gotten a little better. You know I went ahead and coached special teams last week, I'm not coaching it this week. There's just certain things you do to make adjustments each week."
One reason special teams has improved is Tyreek Hill has proven to be as dangerous in the return game as we had hoped. In back to back games he returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Reporter: "Were you surprised Kansas kicked to Hill?"
Reporter: "Were you pleased they kicked to Hill?"
Gundy: "I am now."
Another big reason for the success on special teams as of late, is perhaps due to the most improved player on the team, kicker Ben Grogan.
"Ben has done a good job of just staying focused, and improving. He had a little bit of a hip flexor issue that caused him some problems, in my opinion.", Gundy said. "He's been a little sore for a while over the summer, and I think now he's finally healthy, and he feels better, and he's developed a little bit of confidence."
The job Glenn Spencer has done since taking over as Defensive Coordinator, is spectacular. The defense was the star of the show against Florida State, and for three weeks now they've kept the Cowboys in the game while the offense tries to figure out which shoe goes on which foot.
"The defense gets exposed, because they're out there the whole time. We don't stay on the field.", Gundy said. "We might as well just check the first quarter in, and start in the second quarter, and start down seven to nothing. Or this week, if we don't play well. we could be down twenty-one to nothing."
"When you take a group of guys that are playing an extended amount of time, and you leave them on the field all the time, well eventually you're going to get exposed.", Gundy continued. "We have to start playing along with them on offense to give them a chance."
Almost every struggle of this team goes back to the offensive line. They have to to get better in order to keep the team on the field.
"We were better after the Iowa State game than we were after the Missouri State game, and then last week...
On How The Team Has Developed To This Point In The Season
There are time the team shows progress, but then there's times that make you think this team is about to implode. It's just part of being in a rebuilding year. There will always be ups and downs. The biggest thing to pay attention to is if they're putting the effort in to get better. If they are, then in time, they'll get to where they need to be.
"This team's been great. They've been super. Their focus has been very good over the last few weeks. They've held up. So far I don't think they've really run into fatigue mentally or physically. Everything's been good. They're just average and learning on the run right now. I mean there's times, I said this in the post game and I'll say it again, I looked out on defense and we had four or five freshman out there. So I just kind of turn away and don't look, so I don't get sick." Gundy said. "There's not any issues here, except we're just trying to get them to grow up really fast."
We knew going into the season this was a "rebuilding' year. The team is young, and freshman can only progress so far in a certain amount of time.
"You take a guy like Furman. Furman is at the top of a lot of this conference in statistics, right? Like tackles for a loss, sacks, and things like that. Well he hasn't even been here a year. Well, that's the same amount of time our freshman have been here so what's the difference? This guys played three years in college in the Big 10, and understand that he's 22 years old. He's been here the same amount of time as all of our freshman. Look at his production level and look at some of those other guys. It's based on his maturity, it's based on his experience, and it's based on his age."
Ultimately the Cowboys are right where we expected them to be. They're 5-1 on the season, but the happiest the fans have been is after the opening loss to Florida State.
Reporter, "Have you ever been part of a team that's ranked 15th in the country, 5-1, undefeated in conference play, and so many people are wondering what's wrong with you?"
"I didn't know anybody was saying, 'what's wrong with us?'. I mean, I don't pay attention to is, but I don't blame them.", Gundy replied with a smirk.
Preparing For TCU
Former Oklahoma State assistant, Doug Meacham, has transformed TCU's offense from where they were a year ago. Hired away to be Houston's offensive coordinator after the Pokes favored Mike Yurcich to fill their own vacancy at the same position, Meacham has found a lot of success. After one year with the Cougars, TCU and Gary Patterson came calling.
"Doug's in there, and he's running our system." Gundy said. "Doug's going to be the next guy. He's had success at Houston and now he's come to TCU, and completely revamped their offense and their thought process. In my opinion he'll be the next guy that gets a head coaching job if he continues to move forward with the success he's had."
TCU had one of the best defenses in the country, and now this year they've found an offense to pair with it. For better or for worse, TCU will show us exactly where the Cowboys are at, and how much work is in front of them.